Blind man tasered by police who mistook walking stick for samurai sword wins compensation

Man in his sixties was shot in the back after his white stick was mistaken for a samurai sword

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The Independent Online

A blind man Tasered by a police officer who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword has been awarded compensation nearly three years after the bungled operation.

Colin Farmer, registered blind after suffering strokes, was walking to a pub to meet friends when he was shot in the back for five seconds with a Taser in October 2012.

The officer who fired the Taser was disciplined and told to apologise to Mr Farmer but was allowed to keep his job at Lancashire police.

Armed police teams were scrambled after reports that a man, variously described, including as a skinhead in his twenties, had been spotted in Chorley, Lancashire, carrying a two-foot sword.

PC Stuart Wright jumped out of his patrol car when he spotted Mr Farmer, and ordered him to stop. When Mr Farmer, then aged 63, failed to respond, the officer Tasered him, then handcuffed him while he lay on the ground.

When another colleague ran to join him, PC Wright said: “I think I’ve got the wrong person”, according to a report into the incident issued by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last year.

Mr Farmer brought legal action against Lancashire police for false imprisonment, assault and battery, and breach of the Human Rights Act. The claim has been settled for an undisclosed sum, said his lawyer Sophie Khan.

Lancashire police admitted that the officer used unreasonable force and did not carry out a proper risk assessment before firing, said Ms Khan.

“This should be a clear example of why Tasers have no place in policing,” said Ms Khan. “We just don’t need them. The experiment with Tasers has failed and they should be shelved now.”

Lancashire police declined to comment. The case has highlighted campaigners’ claims that Tasers have been used when less drastic methods could be just as effective.

Some British forces have used the weapons since 2003. Last year the weapons were drawn more than 10,000 times, but fired in less than a fifth of the cases.

One in 10 officers is now armed with a Taser. The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, voted earlier this year for all frontline officers to be given Tasers. A 2010 Home Office survey found that a sizeable majority of the public supported their use.

But an inquest last month raised concerns about the weapons’ safety. A 23-year-old factory worker, Jordon Begley, died two hours after being struck by a Taser in July 2013, and a jury found that the electrical discharge from the gun  – which reaches up to 50,000 volts – was in part responsible. Police responded to the verdict by calling for an independent review of the medical evidence.

Home Secretary Theresa May last year ordered a review into who was being targeted with the weapons.